Disclaimer: I do not own any newsie. Not even Spot Conlon. (sigh . . .) Maggie, her family (minus Tommy, I'll leave you to figure that one out ;-) ), and a few others are mine, but everyone else belong solely to Disney.
A/N: For my sanity (and yours) I will not be writing in a way to show the Newsies' accents. Everyone knows they have the various New York accents, do I really need to torture myself trying to spell them all out how it sounds? I've never even been to New York. So yeah, that's my excuse why you'll find everything spelled correctly. Use your imagination if you really want the accents. :-P
"Maggie. Maggie. Maggie. Maggie!"
I cracked my eyes open slowly, squinting in the bright light from the sun. My bleary blue eyes met the bright ones of my ten-year-old sister Minnie. I tried to close my eyes to go back to sleep, but she continued to shake me.
"What is it?" I asked irritably.
"It's the triplets. They're crying and Papa isn't home."
I stumbled out of bed and tried to smooth my sandy hair from the wild mop it had turned into while I was asleep. After several attempts I gave up. I walked unsteadily over to Ruth, Lillian, and Helen's crib. Handing one of them to Minnie, I picked up the other two and bounced them gently on my hip in an effort to calm them. I was suddenly thankful for all the heavy grocery baskets I had to carry each Monday. My arms were strong and sturdy, which was good when holding two crying babies.
I noticed little Rose and Anna still sleeping on their cot. With their golden hair splayed out on their pillows like halos, they looked like angels. I knew they wouldn't be once they were up. Their angelic faces were deceiving.
I made my way over to the kitchen and placed Ruth and Lilly in their highchairs. Minnie followed with Helen. I turned to our small stove and started up some oatmeal for the girls. I told Minnie to go wake up Rose and Anna just as Florence came skipping over, her blue eyes bright and her golden hair neatly brushed.
"Maggie, when's Papa coming home?" She asked.
"Never, I hope." I growled.
Tears filled her eyes. I sighed. Florence was only five years old and did not know how much of a jerk her father was. I smiled in apology and handed her a bowl of oatmeal. She took it solemnly and sat down to eat it. Minnie came in soon after with Rose and Anna. Mary followed sleepily, rubbing her brown eyes tiredly. In her arms she clutched her small baby blanket. It was the last thing Mama had made before she died.
After we finished breakfast, the girls left for school. I cleaned up here and there around the house and, a short time later, watched the triplets fall asleep. I had dropped out of school the year before Mama died; she was weak and needed my help. Then after she died a year ago, I had to stay home and help with the girls. I collapsed on my cot and stared at the sleeping babies. It was in times like these when I missed Thomas the most. After Tommy had left, Papa became more irritable. Then he started drinking after Mama died, so now all the responsibilities of raising the girls were left to me.
Thinking of Tommy made the corners of my mouth curl in a slight smile. He had been the only one to be born with the dark brown hair and eyes of Mama. Most of us had the unfortunate privilege of having the blonde hair and blue eyes of Papa. Little Mary was the only girl with brown hair and eyes. Tommy had run away from home when he was ten. I had, with the childish hope of an eight-year-old, expected him to come home any moment. But he hadn't. That had been seven years ago. He did not even know about Florence, Mary, or the triplets.
Papa hated the fact that his only son had deserted him. I did my best to please him, but Mama needed me at home more than at the factory. Plus she was determined her girls would have the school education she had been deprived of in Italy. She had immigrated to America a few years before I was born, with Papa on the same boat from Sweden. They had met at the docks and the rest is history. Papa had always been on the gruff side, but I had always thought that he loved us more than air. Apparently that love had dissipated after Mama's death.
I looked at the tall clock across from me and noticed it was time to buy the groceries. I knocked on the wall above my cot three times. An answering knock vibrated through the wood and I knew my friend Chava Goldenberg was on her way to watch the triplets. I grabbed my basket and the grocery money I kept hidden underneath my pillow. Kissing each triplet on their golden heads, I exited our apartment just as Chava was entering. We smiled and nodded to each other but I was in a hurry to leave so I could get back soon.
The market was crowded as usual, and newsies yelled from the street corners. I made my purchases quickly, my steps lagging as the basket grew heavier. I rounded a corner and hoisted the basket higher on my hip, trying to figure out a comfortable position for it. I was concentrating so much on the basket that I neglected to watch where I was going. I collided with a newsie and dropped my heavy load. The kid merely grabbed a rolling apple and took off. I screamed curses at him in my head, which my mother would be ashamed of.
After gathering as much scattered fruit and vegetables that I could, I made my way back home. I was almost to the front steps of the tenant house when I heard a voice behind me ask,
"Hey, you need help with that, lady?"
I turned and looked surprised at a newsie standing behind me. He didn't look like the type that would ask for help. He was older than me by a year or so and had a proud look about him that would have made me gag under any other circumstances. As it were, I declined politely, half because I didn't trust him and half because I was already at my front steps. I could carry it the rest of the way.
"No thank you, I can manage."
The boy shrugged. "Suit yourself," he said before turning and walking away, swinging a well polished cane beside him.
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and made my way up the stairs and into the tenant house. I struggled with my load for a while before I reached our apartment on the fourth floor. Chava helped me put away the groceries and stayed awhile to talk. The triplets soon fell asleep and the conversation lagged. After a while Chava spoke up.
"Do you want to come to Manhattan on Wednesday with me? Mama can watch the triplets. I want to visit Aaron."
I looked down, studying the floorboards in thought. I knew Chava didn't get to see Aaron much because he worked at a restaurant in Manhattan, but I wasn't sure I wanted to see him again. He had been interested in me a couple of years ago, but I was unable to reciprocate the affection. Chava, Aaron, and their parents were Jewish, but were not as Orthodox as most. While they had not minded me not being a Jew, Mr. and Mrs. Goldenberg were slightly upset that he had not chosen a Jewish girl, but they were not about to kick him out of the house. Secretly though, I think they were relieved when I said no. Of course Aaron was good-looking, with the dark hair and intense eyes of his sister, and nice and polite, but I just could not like him in that way. He said he understood, and that we could be just friends, but there was always some uneasiness between us.
Chava seemed to sense my hesitancy. She poked my arm.
"Come on, it'll be fine. He's gotten over you by now. Besides, you need to get out of this neighborhood for a while. Please?"
I looked up into her wide brown eyes and had to laugh. She looked ridiculous in her puppy dog face. I nodded.
"Fine, I'll come with you to see Aaron."
Chava smiled happily. "That's my Maggie."
She talked on but I stopped listening. I thought of Aaron, strong independent Aaron, and was reminded of Tommy. Tommy had told me he was running away. Told me right out. I had wanted to go with him but he wouldn't let me. He promised he would be back when he finished his adventure. Now I wonder if he's even still alive.
Minnie and the girls came home from school and I fixed them dinner. One by one they went off to bed until I was the only one awake. I made sure they were all tucked in nicely and went to sit by the window that sat in front of the fire escape. The same window which Tommy had used to leave. I sighed and leaned my forehead against the pane, my breath frosting the glass. Every night I whispered a prayer for Tommy, asking God to watch over him and to keep him safe. I used to ask for God to bring him back, but stopped after it came apparent that God wasn't answering that request. I glanced up at the sky as a shooting star flew across the blackness of the night. I wondered if Tommy had seen that star and was missing us as much as I was missing him.
Chava came for me as soon as Minnie had taken the girls to school. Her mother, Mrs. Goldenberg, came over and instantly the girls began to coo at her. I smiled slightly. She sure did have a way with the little ones. Her sparkling dark eyes smiled at me. She had been a bit standoffish during the time Aaron was attracted to me, but once I had backed away, she became friendlier towards me. Thankfully, Chava had always been my friend.
I kissed Ruth, Lilly, and Helen goodbye and Chava and I made our way out the door and down the stairs to the outside of the tenant house. She chattered eagerly, as was her custom, and I listened pensively, as was mine. Chava had always been one to talk, while I chose to observe and contemplate. We were as different as night and day and yet were still friends. It's a wonder to me, but Chava says it's because God planned it that way. Well, I wasn't about to get in the way of God's plan, but I still worried about our first fight which had to be soon since we haven't fought since we met, which was five years ago.
I was glad for a friend like her. Her happy chatter kept my mind off Tommy and Papa. She always knew what to say to make me feel better. I sometimes wondered how she even knew I was feeling bad, and she said it was because my face was an open book. That made me feel slightly uneasy. Did that mean every time a stranger saw me, they knew exactly how I was feeling? It was a good thing I had no enemies. They would walk all over me for sure.
The journey to Manhattan was uneventful. Chava was finally winding down and when we got to Tibby's Restaurant, she had stopped talking completely. I knew however, that she would start up again once she saw Aaron.
The restaurant was partially crowded, especially a corner table full of rowdy newsies. Chava giggled and pointed to a tall brown-headed boy wearing a cowboy hat down his back. She whispered that he was cute. I rolled my eyes and made my way to the back were the busboys were gathered for a dinner break. I did not bother to tell Chava her parents would be ashamed of her behavior. She did not care about her parents' traditions when it came to boys. A few catcalls followed her as she joined me. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes again. Chava was much too pretty for her own good. It was times like these when I was glad I hadn't inherited mother's famed beauty.
"Have you seen Aaron?" I asked the busboy closest to me.
"Goldenberg? Yeah, he was here. Left a few minutes ago to get some bread."
Chava looked like she was about to laugh. "Isn't there bread here he can eat?"
The boy looked at her appreciatively. I almost gagged. Another boy was staring at me. I glared at him. He blushed and looked away. The first boy nodded to the door.
"Here he comes now."
Aaron Goldenberg walked into Tibby's, his handsome face looking just as I remembered. For some strange reason my heart twitched when I saw him. He was carrying a loaf of bread and his face broke into a smile when he saw his sister. Chava squealed and threw herself into his arms. A familiar ache filled my chest. How long had I waited to greet Tommy liked that? I knew Minnie missed him too, even though she had only been three when he left. Chava had broken the hug and was now leading him towards me and the boys. The first busboy that had spoken nodded at Chava.
"Is this the little sister you've been telling us about?" He asked.
Aaron nodded. "Yup. Guys, this is Chava." He glanced at me, his gaze surprisingly indifferent. A strange shiver ran through me. He did not seem to recognize me. He turned back to Chava and began speaking to her. The busboys split the loaf he had brought and soon returned to their work. I suddenly felt out of place and awkward. I shifted from one foot to the other. Looking around the restaurant, I wondered how it kept so clean in such a dirty city as Manhattan.
"I still got some papes to sell. I'll see you all later."
A voice broke through my train of thought. I turned to see the newsies waving to a boy exited the café.
"See ya Mush!" The boys seemed to be saying.
I turned back to Chava and Aaron. All of a sudden I realized the voice had sounded familiar. I turned once again to the door but the boy was gone. Hurriedly leaving Tibby's, I scanned the streets. My heart was pounding in my chest. I heard a voice calling a headline to my right and looked to see a capped head disappearing into the crowds. It couldn't be . . . could it? I raced after the boy.
Before I knew it I had lost him and myself. Turning around and around I called out for "Mush," figuring it was safer to call him that in case my hunch was wrong. It had been so long since I had heard his voice. . . . Plus the last time we spoke he still had the falsetto of a small boy. This "Mush's" voice had been deep. Of course he would be seventeen by now. But I had been sure I had recognized that voice. I sighed and leaned against the wall of the alley I had found myself in. I pressed my back against it and closed my eyes.
A slight rustling caused my eyes to open. There, almost nose to nose with me, was a boy.
"'Ello miss. Are you lost?" The sinister grin on his face gave me shivers.
"No, I know exactly where I am." I said, shortly. I tried to step around him but he jumped into my path again.
"You know what happens to pretty ladies who find themselves in alleyways?" He asked. A few more boys whom I hadn't noticed stepped forward from the opposite wall. I swallowed hard. A scream ripped through my throat as the leader launched at me.
A/N: Muwahahaha! (rubs hands sinisterly) I love cliffhangers. :-P This is my first Newsies fic, so tell me what you all think!
Reviews make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.